Casualties sustained during the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, could have been much higher if it was not for the work of a mysterious CIA officer, according to an official report from the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The report, released Tuesday, noted that U.S. military support did not arrive to aid the small contingent of U.S. personnel defending the consulate during the attack. Instead, it was a militia made up of former Gaddafi loyalists known as Libyan Military Intelligence (LMI) that would come to the rescue of the U.S. officials several hours after the attack. According to the report, the militia group came to the aid of the officials thanks to a quick-thinking CIA officer known only as “Officer A.”
The report stated that the perilous situation began when a U.S. team defending the CIA annex housing the recently evacuated State Department officials came under mortar fire. The men belonged to what is known as a CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) team, an organization charged with protecting intelligence assets abroad. They had decided to evacuate the U.S. consulate after the first attack the previous evening and move the remaining staff to the annex before coming under a second assault. The Benghazi GRS team, initially comprised of only six men, would be reinforced by a second team that flew in from Tripoli overnight, but the welcome help would unfortunately not be enough to conduct a full evacuation.
“We decided that the situation we had was untenable to stay at the compound. We didn’t have enough shooters and there were too many wounded, and we were definitely going to lose our State Department wounded if we had stayed there much longer,” recounted one of the GRS personnel in his testimony to the committee. “So we were pushing to get out as fast as we could.”
The team realized that a full evacuation would have little chance of success without armored vehicles.
Enter the LMI.
As dawn broke the next morning, former Ghaddafi officers unknown to both the CIA and State rolled a 50-vehicle LMI convoy full of heavy weapon gun trucks into the annex to assist in evacuation, the report said. The officers had gone into hiding after Ghaddafi’s fall, fearing rival militia groups might hunt them down. In effect, the U.S. officials have those they ousted from power to thank.
The report credited Officer A as being solely responsible for securing the help of the LMI. It provided little detail as to the officer’s background, and what little that was included was partially redacted. That said, it does note that Officer A “spent a lot of time on the night of the attacks trying to secure help.”
After it was clear that the anti-Gaddafi February 17 Martyrs Brigade militia initially contracted with protecting the base was leaving the scene, Officer A was told to contact Libya’s National Police. Officer A described the police as “next to helpless.”
Though the National Police proved useless, Officer A convinced an officer to forward him to a Colonel belonging to the LMI. The CIA officer was familiar with neither the Colonel nor his organization, but was nonetheless able to secure the group’s help.
“And I immediately made contact with this commander. He asked how he could help, and I told him … our general location, and I said, you know, we need you to come and secure this area,” said Officer A in his testimony.
“He had an idea, at that point, of events happening in that part of the city, and he told me that he would need to put a big force together, he cannot just come with one of his—I mean, like, two or three vehicles, that he would need to put a large force together and for me to give him some time to put that force together.”
After the annex sustained bombardment for mortar fire, Officer A called back the Colonel and insisted he and his force come immediately. Minutes later, LMI arrived and the evacuation was underway.
Officer A’s identity may never be known, but the report cites his “hard work and ingenuity” as key to saving the remaining U.S. personnel in Benghazi.
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